James Ashley

James AshleyInquiry call over fatal police shooting

Compiled from BBC News
Originally published 13th November 2003
Updates on this case are listed at the foot of this item

The family of an unarmed man who was shot dead by police have renewed their call for a public inquiry in to his death. Their demand came as the chief constable of Sussex Police made a personal apology for the killing of James Ashley by the force’s officers during a deadly bungled drugs raid in 1998.

Mr Ashley’s death in St Leonards, Sussex, led to one officer being charged with murder, and the resignation of the then chief constable, Paul Whitehouse. Mr Whitehouse’s successor, Ken Jones, travelled to Liverpool on Thursday to say sorry to Mr Ashley’s parents and other relatives. No officers were found guilty and none sacked over the incident.

Mr Ashley, 39, was shot in front of his girlfriend during the night-time raid by police who wrongly believed he might be armed.

An investigation subsequently revealed police guidelines had not been followed, but the officer charged with murder was acquitted after arguing he had acted in self-defence. He said he had mistakenly believed he was about to be shot, as Mr Ashley was coming towards him.

Mr Jones said on Thursday: “Whilst no words of mine can undo the wrong that was done, I need to repeat that I am deeply sorry.” He said he had made changes in the force since the incident. He added: “James should not have died but, and this will be of small comfort to his loved ones and friends, his death has resulted in safer firearms procedures for us all.”

Mr Ashley’s mother, Eileen Ashley, said: “I am glad he came to clear Jimmy’s name. “But we still want a public inquiry into his death.” His son James said: “I was 14 when he died and it’s been five years. “It’s bad that it’s taken so long to get an apology.”

The family’s solicitor, Jane Dyson, said the chief constable’s apology was “unprecedented.” She said: “The family have asked for a public inquiry not only into the killing of their son but into the way which that killing was investigated – into what the family believe to be a cover up.

“It was an investigation which led to no criminal convictions and no formal disciplinary proceedings against any of the officers involved in the killing of James Ashley.” She added that the family were still pursuing legal action against the former chief constable Paul Whitehouse.

Mr Ashley’s sister Pauline said what happened to her brother was “legalized murder”, adding: “From day one we haven’t had the support network of the police which usually happens to other people in different circumstances, we’ve basically been treated like criminals.”

Four other officers were also cleared of misconduct and neglect of duty in two separate trials. Mr Whitehouse was later forced to resign after pressure from Home Secretary David Blunkett. Meanwhile Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman has called for a review of the police complaints procedure. She said: “This welcome apology is long overdue. James Ashley’s untimely death exposed inadequacies in police operations and the complaints system.”


Follow-up News:

Police apologise for fatal shooting of innocent man
5 March 2009

Family of James Ashley told they can sue police
24 April 2008

Police face trial over shooting
27 July 2006

Family’s anger over Ashley files
15 February 2005

Mother welcomes police gun guidelines
30January 2003

Police chief quits
26 June 2001

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